A nagging suspicion led Steve Kissing to his career in advertising. He had worked his way to a director's spot in his employer's public relations department when he finally gave into that suspicion.

"I had always been intrigued by what was happening [in the advertising department]," Kissing admits. "It seemed to me like they were having a lot more fun."

So, after six years at HSR Business to Business, Kissing got approval from the other partners there to try his hand at ad copywriting. He traded his corner office for a cubicle and the title of junior copywriter. After six or so months, he felt an urge to write ad copy somewhere else.

"I didn't want to be tagged as the goofy partner who decides he wants to be a copywriter," Kissing explains.

The partner-turned-copywriter proved to be more gifted than goofy. Kissing launched such a successful, award-winning second career at Barefoot Advertising that he was hired back at HSR as associate creative director, then creative director. Early in 2005, he was recruited back to Barefoot, where he now is a partner, VP and creative director.

"I decided this is where I belong," Kissing says of Barefoot. And it's easy to see why he feels that way. The agency's lobby"”located in the historic Longworth Hall building downtown"”greets visitors with a series of artfully shot black-and-white photos of staff members' bare feet. In the back of a long room with exposed brick walls, scooters and a ping-pong table are on hand to inspire playfulness and creativity among employees.

It's that spirit of fun that Kissing first, correctly, sensed about the business that still keeps him interested in what he does.

"I like the creative discovery as you work with the client, trying to understand what it is they're trying to accomplish," Kissing explains. "It's just fun trying to uncover the big idea that brings it to life.

"And it's the joy of moving words around and the (challenge) to find just the right word."

A typical collaboration involves a writer and an art director producing the words and images for an advertisement. One recent assignment required Kissing and art director Lauren Hayes to entice college students to enroll in the heady course of philosophy.

The fun they had is evident in the results. One of their philosophy print ads features a silhouetted head and shoulders, with an angel on one side and a devil on the other. It reads: "We'll teach you something about holism, historicism and hylomorphism. You can bone up on hedonism over spring break."

This spirit is not unique to Barefoot. Kissing says companies looking for creative advertising success from Cincinnati agencies won't be disappointed.

"We're somewhat affected by young people who take their talent out of town""”to known advertising magnets such as New York, Chicago or Minneapolis. "But if people took a closer look at some of the work here in town, they'd see plenty to like and believe in."